The Republic of Korea’s energy use per capita is among the highest in the world and it is the world’s eighth-largest consumer of energy, mostly derived from fossil fuels.
The role of natural gas and its integration with renewables development in long-term planning is expected to be critical in achieving a carbon neutral target by 2050 and a reduction of 40% in carbon emissions by 2030 from 2018 levels. The carbon neutral target was enshrined into legislation in 2021.
For decades now, Korea has depended on imports of oil, coal and natural gas for the vast majority of its energy needs and in 2021 those commodities accounted for nearly 85% of energy use. In 2021, it was the third-largest importer of LNG in the world.
A change in government in 2022 saw a continued commitment to 2050 carbon neutrality but a distinct change in the energy mix by which the goal will be achieved – with President Yoon Suk-yeol announcing a reduction in renewable energy targets and a fresh focus on nuclear power as part of the decarbonisation agenda.
In July 2022, the new government revealed a 2030 target of nearly 33% nuclear energy, which had been targeted for phasing out by 2050 by the previous administration. Nuclear plants will also be exported. By contrast, renewable energy – previously identified as an area of rapid growth – will make up only a little more than 21% of Korea’s energy supply.
The new government’s approach will go some way towards addressing questions around how its predecessor’s ambitious renewables goals would be achieved – including growth from 6.5% of the power generation capacity in 2020 (20GW) to 42% in 2034 (78GW).
Natural gas will continue to have a vital role to play in supporting Korean industry and communities. The draft 10th Basic Plan for Electricity Supply and Demand for 2030-34 forecast gas would make up 22.9% of energy use in 2030, overtaking coal (19.7%) and making up a higher percentage than renewable energy. LNG import capabilities will be expanded and Korea will increasingly look to regions beyond the Middle East for supply, including Australia and the US.